Ag degrees useless? We beg to differ.

If your job connects you with students who are interested in ag careers, you may have gotten wind of a blog post titled College Majors that are Useless. Among the five listed are agriculture (# 1), animal science (#4) and horticulture (#5). The post has generated a fair number of inquiries from parents of students and and alumni stakeholders, says Maria McGinnis, CALS Career Services.

“We are taking that article very seriously but also with a grain of salt, because the sources are not exactly the most newsworthy. Our response is to send people where the facts are,” she adds.

One of those sites offers recent USDA employment trends and forecasts for ag and science related majors. McGinnis says that what’s important to convey is that the USDA and the Department of Labor—the source of statistics cited in the blog post—counts jobs in agriculture very differently. The labor department only counts people who are farming in a sole proprietorship. The USDA understands that the agricultural sector is much bigger than that.

“Yes, there are fewer sole-owner farmers than there are students studying agriculture. However, our animal science grads do far more than farm. They go into business, research, food production, veterinary medicine, consulting, teaching, communications and other areas,” McGinnis points out.

“We see this as an opportunity for a dialog—to say, ‘If you consider feeding the world useless, fine.  We’re also making the point that any major is useless if you don’t have the right experiences in college that will help you sell yourself to an employer, including internships and activities where you can learn some leadership skills.”

Another detailed response to the blog is offered here by John Shutske, CALS associate dean and leader of the Agriculture and Natural Resources Extension program.